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Viking Sky Cruise Review
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
999 Reviews

Excursion highlights for Viking trip to Panama Canal

Viking Sky Cruise Review by marykay877

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Feb 2020
  • Destination: the Caribbean

We chose this trip because of the opportunity to experience the Panama Canal. It was the highlight of the trip. This review will concentrate on the excursions - mostly because I found few reviews on Cruise Critic about this itinerary before I took it. The staff and service were excellent. The comments are about my personal reactions to the excursions. In general, the quality was high, but I enjoyed some more than others (as reflected in the reviews) since personal taste varies.

Note. The Port Talks done on the ship the afternoon prior to each new stop were excellent. They described each of the excursions and gave a lot of details about the difficulty of walking or entering the vehicles (e.g, bus, boat, train etc). We used the Port Talks to make decisions to change our reservations several times due to physical limitations, and the tour desk was able to do so even though we were doing so after the deadline to make changes. I am very thankful for their attention to our needs.

Feb 22

Key West. We took the included Trolley Hop-on/Hop-off tour. (They didn’t tell us in advance it was hop-on/off.) The narration was fun. We hopped off at the stop near the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, paid the entrance fee, and greatly enjoyed the experience. I also walked a couple blocks to the spot designated as the most southern point in continental US from that trolley stop. After the butterflies, we took the trolley back to the ship for lunch. In the afternoon, I walked to the Truman Winter White House and took the hour-long tour. This was my favorite activity in Key West (I had investigated doing it on-line during my planning for the trip). I also had time for some shopping before returning to the ship. The ship was well located to allow passengers to explore the shopping and several major sites. (I was not interested in visiting Hemingway's house, but others easily did so.)

My sister had planned to go on the optional glass-bottomed boat ride for that afternoon, but Viking cancelled that tour the previous evening (announcing that sea-conditions would not allow it).

Feb 24

Cozumel. I took the included tour to the pre-Columbian Mayan site at San Gervasio. They split us into smaller groups to tour the ruins and learn about the history of the site. The guide did a good job on the lengthy bus ride to talk about what we were going to see and to answer general questions about life in Mexico. I don’t have much experience with Mayan ruins (except for their calendar system that made them such great astronomers), so this was essentially new for me.

Feb 25

Belize. The included tour started by going ashore by tender, then a drive through the city that pointed out colonial-era buildings, and then a longer ride to the ruins of Altun Ha. There were quite a few buildings (one of which the group was invited to climb). They divided the 39 people on the bus into smaller groups with individual guides. It was a sunny day, and the bottles of water that Viking provided as we departed the ship were much appreciated since we spent over an hour walking around the ruins for the tour on a hot day. Again, the guide on the bus did a nice job of describing the town and the site, and answering questions about life in Belize.

Feb 26

Roatan. We had planned to do the included tour for this day, but a few days before the cruise Viking announced that they were cancelling several tours and turning two optional ones into included tours. My sister changed to the tour that went to the rum and chocolate place, and I changed to the Gumbalimba Park excursion. This was one of my favorite excursions of the entire trip. There were lots of parrots, some macaws, resident monkeys that you could hold (who wanted to steal your earrings or buttons), and at least one sloth. They advertised a “rope” bridge to cross a pond, but it actually had wooden slats and sturdy metal “ropes”; it was a bit wobbly, but I felt quite safe. The park was quite lovely, although the walking paths were a bit rough sometimes. Again, the water bottle was appreciated. (For the monkey area, you had to remove your hat and store the bottle so that the monkeys wouldn’t steal them.)

Feb 28.

Costa Rica. We had signed up for two tours, the included one and the optional boat and train excursion. Viking had a letter waiting in our stateroom when we first boarded letting us know that the boat part for both tours was identical, and we might consider changing our reservations. We ended up discarding the optional boat and train excursion to do one called “All Terrain Vehicle Ride and Rain Forest Trek”. The monster bus had air conditioning and comfortable seats, and took us up to the mountains near the Banano River. It promised to lead us on foot into the rain forest, but we never actually left the roadway. I saw one tiny poisonous dart frog, and heard some birds, but there wasn’t much wild-life. The driver and the guide had built this bus themselves, and their explanation of how they did it was interesting. They had a nice “picnic” of fruit and snacks, a stop near a banana plantation where we learned a bit about how bananas are grown and harvested, and a scenic drive back to the ship along the coast.

After lunch on the ship, we took the included tour that took us by bus to the Tortuguero National Park. The canal boat had a very talented guide that found various sorts of wildlife, such as howler monkeys and crocodiles. Although the description implied we would go into “heart of it all”, we were never out of view of the dock or manmade structures; that is, we didn’t go very far along the waterway/canal, and certainly never got to the point where the canals were “overgrown with jungle”. I found it a fun experience and enjoyed it more than the morning trek on the monster bus, but wished we had had a chance to go further along the canal. Again, the guide on the bus did a nice job of talking about Costa Rica. In spite of its limitations, this was one of my favorite excursions.

Feb 29

The Panama Canal. Very cool experience for the ship to enter the canal, spend the day on the lake, and exit in late afternoon. The highlight of the entire trip.

March 1

Panama. We did the included tour by bus to Panama City from our docked location in Colon, Panama. The guide pointed out important sites related to the canal and its administration before dropping most of us off near Casco Viejo (Old Town). Several passengers stayed on the bus rather than take the hour-long walk. We were able to enter the church and see the interior. Most of the shops were closed since it was Sunday morning. The guide pointed out some important historic buildings as we walked along cobblestoned streets, and then returned to the bus. The bus took a different set of roads back to Colon, including one through the national park where the jungle was thick. Again the guide was happy to answer questions beyond his prepared talk.

March 3

Jamaica. Again we had booked two tours, one included and one optional. But after hearing the Port Talk on March 2, we cancelled the optional one we had planned (the 4X4 safari ride). We took the included trip to Rose Hall Great House, a restored Georgian mansion from the British colonial period. The tour guide spent a lot of time talking about the residents of the house and their evil actions and deaths. There were three flights of steps to enter the house, another three flights to go upstairs, and two flights to go to the basement. Some passengers skipped all the walking tour of the house. There was a shop at the house (15 minutes), and a stop at a shopping center near the house (30 minutes) before returning to the ship at Montego Bay. I really didn’t feel that we had much of an introduction to life in Jamaica or its history.

For all locations, there was at least one included (no extra fee) excursion and several optional (various fees) available.


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Cabin Review

Nice clean space with balcony. Storage in closets, drawers, under bed. Nice TV with many interactive features including some television stations, movies, repeats of enrichments talks and port talks, menus.


Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Loved the butterflies.

View All 36 Butterfly and Nature Conservatory Reviews
Trolley Tour

We took the Viking included Trolley Hop-on/Hop-off tour. (They didn’t tell us in advance it was hop-on/off.) The narration was fun. We hopped off at the stop near the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, paid the entrance fee, and greatly enjoyed the experience. I also walked a couple blocks to the spot designated as the most southern point in continental US. After the butterflies, we took the trolley back to the ship for lunch. In the afternoon, I walked to the Truman Winter White House and took the hour-long tour. This was my favorite activity in Key West (I had investigated doing it on-line during my planning for the trip). I also did a little shopping before returning to the ship. (By the way, the separate entrance fees to the Butterfly place and Truman place were less than the optional tour sold by Viking.)

View All 176 Trolley Tour Reviews
Altun Ha

The included tour started by going ashore by tender, then a drive through the city that pointed out colonial-era buildings, and then a longer ride to the ruins of Altun Ha. There were quite a few buildings (one of which the group was invited to climb). They divided the 39 people on the bus into smaller groups with individual guides. It was a sunny day, and the bottles of water that Viking provided as we departed the ship were much appreciated since we spent over an hour walking around the ruins for the tour. Again, the guide on the bus did a nice job of describing the town and the site, and answering questions about life in Belize.

View All 187 Altun Ha Reviews
Mayan Ruins

. I took the included tour to the pre-Columbian Mayan site at San Gervasio. They split us into smaller groups to tour the ruins and learn about the history of the site. The guide did a good job on the lengthy bus ride to talk about what we were going to see and to answer general questions about life in Mexico.

View All 425 Mayan Ruins Reviews
Gumbalina Park

Gumbalimba Park excursion. This was one of my favorite excursions of the entire trip. There were lots of parrots, some macaws, resident monkeys that you could hold (who wanted to steal your earrings or buttons), and at least one sloth. They advertised a “rope” bridge to cross a pond, but it actually had wooden slats and sturdy metal “ropes”. The park was quite lovely, although the walking paths were a bit rough sometimes. Again, the water bottle was appreciated. (For the monkey area, you had to remove your hat and store the bottle so that the monkey wouldn’t steal them.)

View All 191 Gumbalina Park Reviews
Panama City

We did the included tour by bus to Panama City from our docked location in Colon, Panama. The guide pointed out important sites related to the canal and its administration before dropping most of us off near Casco Viejo (Old Town). Nancy and several others stayed on the bus rather than take the walk. We were able to enter the church and see the interior. Most of the shops were closed since it was Sunday morning. The guide pointed out some important historic buildings as we walked along cobblestoned streets, and then returned to the bus. The bus took a different set of roads back to Colon, including one through the national park where the jungle was thick. Again the guide was happy to answer questions beyond his prepared talk.

View All 39 Panama City Reviews

We took the included trip to Rose Hall Great House, a restored Georgian mansion from the British colonial period. The tour guide spent a lot of time talking about the residents of the house and their evil actions and deaths. There were three flights of steps to enter the house, another three flights to go upstairs, and two flights to go to the basement. Nancy skipped all the walking tour of the house. There was a shop at the house (15 minutes), and a stop at a shopping center near the house (30 minutes) before returning to the ship at Montego Bay. I really didn’t feel that we had much of an introduction to life in Jamaica or its history.

View All undefined undefined Reviews
The Tortuguero Canals

This was actually stop 6, before the Panama Canal.

we took the included tour that took us by bus to the Tortuguero National Park. The canal boat had a very talented guide that found various sorts of wildlife, such as howler monkeys and crocodiles. Although the description implied we would go into “heart of it all”, we were never out of view of the dock or manmade structures; that is, we didn’t go very far along the waterway/canal, and certainly never got to the point where the canals were “overgrown with jungle”. I found it a fun experience and enjoyed it more than the morning trek on the monster bus, but wished we had had a chance to go further along the canal. Again, the guide on the bus did a nice job of talking about Costa Rica. In spite of its limitations, this was one of my favorite excursions.

View All 82 The Tortuguero Canals Reviews

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marykay877
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